Thursday, September 12, 2013

Joys and Regrets on Day 1 in Columbus

The opening round of the Nationwide Children's Championship started with a huge bang on Thursday at the Ohio State University Golf Club's Scarlet Course. On Tuesday, I had the great privilege of meeting some children from the Children's Hospital cancer center and doing a junior clinic with them. One of the girls from that clinic, 9-year-old Madeline Richardson, hit the tournament's opening shot on Thursday morning and I was there to watch and cheer her. It was a very refreshing and joy-filled scene.

Minutes later, I began my round in the tournament's first grouping off of the tenth hole. Two great shots and a perfectly hit eight-foot putt got me off and running with a birdie. I hit two more good shots and made a par on the difficult par-four 11th hole. I then laid up perfectly on the par-five 12th hole and nailed the flagstick with my wedge shot. The ball caromed backwards, but actually stopped just fifteen feet from the hole. Before I hit my putt, play was suspended due to a rapidly approaching thunderstorm. Play was halted for a full three hours, and when we returned to the hole, I proceeded as I normally would. I picked up the tee that I had placed in the ground to ensure the location of my coin would not be compromised by the rain. As I removed the tee from the ground, I noticed the hole it left in the green and casually tapped it with my putter behind my coin. I went on to two putt for my par and made a good par on the tough par-three 13th. Then, walking off of the 14th tee, a tournament official approached me and inquired as to what I was doing when I had tapped down the spot behind my coin on the 12th green. He informed me that I had likely violated a rule and would be penalized two strokes. I wasn't really mad, but I was shocked and very rattled by the news. I thought about little Madeline, and that definitely helped to give me a great sense of perspective, but I struggled to let go of the rattled thoughts that were in my head. From a mental standpoint, I played some of the worst golf that I have played all year in the ten holes that followed my learning of the penalty. I don't know why I couldn't let go of that news and simply stay in my routine. I still feel that I am playing great golf, but the jumbled thoughts in my head wouldn't let that show for the vast majority of my round on Thursday. I ended up posting a two-over-par round of 73.

The reason I titled this post "Regrets on Day 1" is I am very disappointed in myself for not doing a better job of controlling my thoughts. Had I stayed in my mental routine and kept a great thought process through the bummer news of the penalty, I know that I could have recovered much more quickly and had a better round-one result. But I am leaving my regrets in this blog post because it is over now, and I still have time to recover and have a great tournament.  

Madeline truly was an inspiration Thursday morning. She has a million-dollar smile (and a great golf swing, too!) despite going through an incredibly hard battle with cancer at such a young age. I use the word "stud" to describe my favorite people when they do wonderful things, and Madeline Richardson and her family are all studs. Thank you for sharing your story and your smile with me.

I'm so lucky that I get to play a game that I love and call it my profession. I truly love what I do. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it all day on Friday as I put in a good morning of work leading up to an afternoon tee time for my second round of the tournament. Come back for another report Friday evening. Thank you for keeping up with me, and do me a favor: smile for Madeline Richardson!

That is Madeline on the right side of the picture in the orange shirt. Anastasia, Evan, Griffin, and Elaina are all studs, too!

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